Ubaid Zargar

With the introduction of Web 3.0, adtech needs to evolve: Affle’s Anuj Kumar

In an interview with afaqs!, Kumar sheds light on the current landscape in India, emerging trends and the future of adtech companies.

The Indian advertising space has seen significant paradigm shifts over the years. Most breakthroughs have happened as a result of the relentless digital growth. 

But to facilitate this shift - from conventional to digital media, or to leverage its untapped potential, brands and marketers have often had to rely on adtech or martech platforms to truly materialise their advertising endeavours. 

Affle India helps brands to maximise their advertising RoIs. It has been in the market for 16-plus years. While the company focusses mostly on mobile advertising, its core operations are based in consumer intelligence and data-led marketing solutions. 

Adtech and martech companies have the ability to collect and organise consumer data from various digital spaces. While this has proven to be of utmost utility to marketers, it has also been a subject of concern in the wake of first-party data collection and brands choosing to seek independence in the practice. 

Anuj Kumar, co-founder and chief revenue & operating officer at Affle, says that the emerging trends in the adtech atmosphere are only going to help build a more sustainable collaboration between brands and martech companies. 

In an interview with afaqs!, Kumar sheds light on the current landscape in India, the emerging trends and the future of adtech companies. 

Edited excerpts:

What does Affle stand for?

We’re a company that focusses primarily on mobile advertising. Affle allows advertisers to connect with their most relevant consumers. 

We have built a customer intelligence platform that helps us to understand consumer preferences for brands and products. Based on that interest level, we can show the relevant ads to them. The ads are shown across all leading apps and sites that are integrated with us. 

As an adtech company, how does Affle enable better advertising experience for brands?

Traditionally, brands base their advertising on models that prioritise impressions. In television or outdoors, everyone focusses on the number of impressions, and digital advertising navigates the same journey. 

We’re a data science-powered platform that can predict the kind of services the consumers may be interested in. We’ve built a conversion-led model, where the advertisers are charged only when relevant conversions take place. These conversions could be usage of apps, buying of products or subscription to particular service. 

The entire onus of delivering that ad to the right user and driving consumer action towards it, is on Affle’s platform. Through this model, the brands operate in an RoI-centric format, where marketing doesn’t remain a cost-line investment, but rather becomes a revenue-line item. 

The expenditure in marketing has a proportionate RoI through sales or other business KPIs. That has been the core of what we’ve been doing at Affle, the only publicly listed company in this domain in India.

How has adtech evolved over the years?

There have been dramatic changes in adtech over the years. The first change was in consumer standpoint. Consumers today are far more glued to their devices (smartphones, laptops) than ever before. In any part of India, the entire consumption of communication or entertainment is happening on these devices. 

In advertising, the first prominent shift came about with the introduction of programmatic advertising that allowed brands to leverage one-to-one targeting. Before this, digital advertising was restricted to homepage ads on websites, by and large. 

In programmatic advertising, the biggest development has been on data-driven advertising that allows personalised ads to be placed in apps. This allows consumers to find ads customised to his tastes, versus seeing irrelevant random messages.

With brands shifting towards gathering first-party data for their marketing strategies, how does Affle help the cause?

Cookie, as a technology stack, has outlived its utility. For tracking, the technology was rudimentary in Web 1.0. With the introduction of Web 3.0, the technologies need to evolve. 

Brands investing in first-party data, is a welcome move. There is a realisation about how this data can be used to drive RoI in digital advertising. Earlier, the reliance was limited to audience data that platforms like Affle would provide, but it came with limitations. Brands can now layer their first-party data with our third-party data, for better results.

What are the challenges that martech platforms face in the current digital landscape?

The challenges are mostly posed by ‘walled gardens’ that clearly like to keep their data to themselves. They don’t allow the marketers to extract it out of them. With more marketers building tools for first-party data collection and many other innovations, brands are now moving away from ‘walled gardens’, which is good for the industry and consumers. This change will translate into Internet’s growth, beyond ‘walled gardens’, and a more personalised experience for consumers. 

How has vernacular advertising evolved over the years?

India is a vernacular market, where consumers like to engage with content in a language of their choice. Many people who consume content on the Internet, can’t read and write. However, with Internet now becoming more video and audio content-led, consumption has become easier. 

With smartphones becoming affordable and video, as a technology, becoming all-pervasive, vernacularisation has received a boost. There has been a significant change in how a video is consumed as well. Consumers are navigating away from cable or DTH television, towards watching OTT content on TV. 

This is a fundamental change, because it allows a personalised experience on TV as well, which wasn’t possible before. Although CTVs have been around for a few years, these changes and the speed at which things are evolving, possibly due to COVID, could blur the lines between TV advertising and digital.

Will the rise of AI provide opportunities for adtech and martech companies?

There are huge implications of AI in martech. The quality of responses and the kind of work AI is capable of doing right now, are dramatically different from what it was a few years ago. With the pace at which AI is growing, it is here to stay. 

A lot of work that is mundane and repetitive, will most likely be outsourced to AI. Today, you have AI writing advertising scripts, or companies that build their ads using AI. 

From an adtech and martech point of view, a lot of this industry is driven by data science. Since data science is primarily used to predict what consumers may be interested in based on past data, with AI, we can take that a step further where it isn’t limited to past data, but is layered with human intuition and individuality. 

A lot of other elements such as building creatives or adapting to screen sizes, are going to be easy targets for AI. Industry practitioners will need to evolve to effectively use this new technology.

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